Knotty Objects

by Celine Semaan Vernon

Slowly but surely, I am updating you on the Knotty Objects conference that happened on Thursday, July 23rd at the MIT Media Lab. The first MIT Media Lab Summit devoted to design, Knotty Objects was curated by Paola Antonelli, Neri Oxman and Kevin Slavin. Watch the videos or "shorties" here.

Slow Factory collaborated with the Media Lab to created exclusive and unique pieces with the images of their professors, artists and scientists. 

In this picture is Neri Oxman wearing her very own Slow Factory™ scarf.

Knotty Objects celebrates the chimeric nature of design: affirmative design and critical design. The event's name is inspired by knots: things that are tied and cannot be untied.

"Their whole is bigger than the sum of their part." - Neri Oxman

Knotty Objects

Knotty Objects” are objects for which conception, design, manufacturing, use and misuse are non-linear, non-discrete. They entangle practices, processes, and policies. When successful, they transform material practice, manufacturing culture, and social constructs.

We consider the brick, the bitcoin, the steak, and the phone to be archetypal knotty objects.


The brick invites questions about modular building and construction practices across all aspects of contemporary life, and how these are changing as they come to incorporate living materials instead of constraining them.

The bitcoin defies simple distinctions between currency, asset, and platform, and changes not just the imagining and practice of money, but of trust, reputation, value, and exchange.

The steak is a vivid reminder that all manufactured consumables have consequential origins, whether those origins are living, breathing animals, or cells in vitro.

The phone lies at the foundation of 21st century human (and non-human) communication, and shapes these exchanges for the hand, for the eye, and in the mind.

The event questioned, challenged, augmented, and exploded these notions among others, tying together speakers, panelists, and the audience over the course of two days.

What resonated with me was this simple sentence:

"You need to know your enemy and embrace it. Your enemy is the status quo."

This forces us to question the new normal,  ask ourselves "what if?" as a way to explore the future of design. Exploring ideas around data and data as a material, a little bit like we explore here, at Slow Factory, where we experiment on archiving data onto a natural fabric that gives the data another sets of use then the one originally designed to support data: which is the computer screen. Data is political, it is messy, and data has always been a privilege. What happens when we allow people to explore data, to create using data and to try to understand this data - in other terms: without the expert.

Whatever happens makes sense after the fact. Everything is so obvious once you know the answer. And here lies the role of art and design and the work around experiment and exploration. 

I will leave you with this quote for now. Let me know know your thoughts on this conference! @slowfactory_

 

Filed under: design inspiration knotty objects mit media lab moma science life